Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Nag... Nag... NAG!

During the 1950s, when comic book readers were in-between super-hero crazes, there was a lot of cool stuff published. Arguably, the coolest stuff was being published by EC Comics, who were not shy about experimenting with comics about a wide variety of subjects. Their war stories, in my opinion, represent their best stories. But they produced a lot of other quality stuff as well.

Piracy first saw print in 1954, running for a mere seven issues. Like most EC books, each issue had four 6- to 8-page stories that often used twist endings and were illustrated by some of the best artists in the business.

Most of the tales were set during the Golden Age of Piracy, though there were quite a few set in other time periods.  But even those Golden Age stories were often given unusual slants.

Piracy #4 (April-May 1955) leads off with a 7-pager titled "Pirate Master," with art by Reed
Crandall. Here we are introduced to the ruthless, sadistic and aptly named Captain Satan, who captures a merchant ship and puts the crew to death in various cruel ways. He learns that there are a couple of women on the ship as well, though he hasn't personally seen them yet.

What made Captain Satan such a cruel man? Well, he conveniently starts musing on his life story and provides us with a flashback.

At one point, he had been a blacksmith, working hard to provide for his wife and mother-in-law. Every day, he was confronted by the older woman's constant and unending NAGGING! Never satisfied, never happy,she verbally and ruthlessly stripped her son-in-law of any happiness or chance for contentment.

So, when he's shanghaied aboard a pirate ship, he suddenly realizes that he's better off. He's escaped HER at last. So he happily embraces a life of piracy, demonstrating an unmatched cruelty and eventually becoming captain of his own ship.

And now here he is--master of his own fate--a leader of men--with the power of life and death over the two women captives.

Anyone familiar with EC's twist endings knows that poor Captain Satan was doomed at this point. Of course the women turn out to be his long-abandoned wife and mother-in-law. And Mom is still in good practice as an expert nagger. The mere sight and sound of her causes his backbone to melt away and turn him back into the spineless victim he had once been. He doesn't even try to argue as he rows off with his family, followed by the jeers of the men who had feared and respected him mere moments before.

The ending is, perhaps, predictable, but it is fun nonetheless, with Crandall's strong artwork giving the story a much stiffer backbone than its protagonist had.

This issue is downloadable as a PDF HERE.

Next week, we'll return to superheroes to join a webslinger and a shield-slinger on a adventure.

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